This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty - We Are The Mighty
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This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.


The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.

The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)

Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.

He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.

Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.

Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.

But the event was canceled without explanation.

A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.

Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.

Also read: 600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.

Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.

In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.

The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.

While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside Kim Jong Un’s secretive childhood and family

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Kim Jong Un has been the supreme leader of North Korea since December 2011, but despite how often Kim makes the news, you probably don’t know that much about him. Since its founding in 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s totalitarian government has heavily restricted the information that comes in and out of the country.


However, Kim’s life is not a complete mystery. We know most of Kim’s childhood was spent hidden from the public eye in Switzerland. He’s a fan of former NBA player Dennis Rodman, married to one of North Korea’s cheerleaders, and calls his relationship with US President Donald Trump “special.” Here’s everything we know about Kim’s mysterious life and family.

Kim Jong Un is believed to have been born in the early 1980s to Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui. His birth year remains unconfirmed by the North Korean government, which is a contrast to how his father and grandfather’s birthdays are celebrated as national holidays. Kim first lived with his mother in the capital city of Pyongyang with the other North Korean elite, but later, Kim was sent to live in Switzerland. Even though the Kim regime doesn’t allow North Korean citizens to leave the country, or even travel within North Korea without permission, members of its own family have enjoyed luxurious lives abroad.

In Bern, Switzerland, the family lived in apartments purchased by the North Korean government for roughly million. The Kim family’s photo album shows Kim Jong Un doing everything from visiting Disneyland Paris to skiing in the Swiss Alps, and when he wasn’t jet-setting around Europe, the future North Korean leader attended the International School of Berne, a private English-language school that costs more than ,000 a year. Known to his classmates as Pac Un, Kim Jong Un was reportedly obsessed with basketball. In Bern, Kim seemed to wear only Adidas tracksuits and Nike sneakers.

Kim’s time in Switzerland ended in 2001, when his father ordered his return to North Korea. Once he was back, Kim started attending Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother Kim Jong Chol. Although his father, Kim Jong Il, hadn’t formally declared an heir, Kim Jong Un was widely seen as his successor. Kim Jong Il reportedly thought that his second-oldest son, Kim Jong Chol, was “effeminate” and weak. Meanwhile, his oldest son and Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, found life in North Korea oppressive.

Kim Jong Un was quickly promoted up the political and military ladder, despite lacking major military experience. The BBC reported that he was made a four-star general, deputy chairman of the power-wielding Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party, and a member of the policy-making Central Committee. In 2011, after the death of his father, Kim Jong Un became the third-generation supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In 2012, North Korean media announced that Kim had married a woman named Ri Sol Ju. Not much is known about Ri, other than that she’s a former cheerleader and singer in North Korea’s famous “Army of Beauties.” They are believed to have three children, though their ages and gender have been kept a secret.

During the early years of Kim’s reign, it was believed that his aunt and uncle were the real decision makers. His aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Song Thaek, were trusted advisers who had served on various government committees for years. However, in 2013, Kim ordered the execution of his uncle and his uncle’s inner circle. Kim’s rocky start as supreme leader continued as he pushed for North Korea to increase its nuclear arms program in 2013. In just six years, Kim Jong Un had conducted more nuclear tests than both his father and his grandfather combined.

Then, in February 2017, international condemnation towards North Korea increased when Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia and later died en route to the hospital. South Korean and US officials speculated that Kim Jong Un ordered the assassination of his half-brother, and Kim Jong Nam’s death only served to heighten the world’s suspicion of North Korea’s leadership.

Donald Trump: I say to the North, do not underestimate us, and do not try us.

Narrator: Over in the US, after taking office, President Trump broke the previous administration’s “strategic patience” approach towards North Korea and demanded immediate denuclearization. Kim Jong Un responded by trying to test a nuclear missile at the same time Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to be visiting South Korea. North Korea continued testing nuclear weapons, while Trump took to Twitter to taunt Kim. Kim responded with his own insults, and as the two leaders continued sniping at each other, odds of war between the two countries seemed to increase. But then 2018 changed everything.

That March, Kim Jong Un made a secret trip to Beijing, his first known trip outside North Korea since coming into power. Just one month later, Kim made history when he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea in 65 years. Later that summer, Kim met with Trump in Singapore. It was the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president. Kim went on to call his relationship with Trump “special.”

As of April 2020, it appears Kim’s health may be less than optimal, and rumors are circulating that he may have had surgery. Kim wasn’t seen at his grandfather’s birthday celebration on April 15, which is abnormal, considering it’s North Korea’s most important holiday. There’s no way to know for sure why Kim hasn’t been seen, but there are reasons to believe it’s health-related. Back in 2008, his father wasn’t seen at an important parade. It was later revealed that his father had had a stroke, so it wouldn’t be the first time a North Korean leader missed an important event due to health concerns.

Kim’s been reported to have health issues as early as 2014, when he disappeared from public view for 40 days. He returned limping and using a cane to walk. However, Kim could just be staying away from the public to protect himself from COVID-19, even though North Korea’s been saying it has zero confirmed cases of the virus in the country, something public health experts find hard to believe.

Regardless of the reason why Kim has been MIA, the mystery around his health has brought other questions to the forefront, like who will succeed him? His kids are too young, his brother seems unlikely, and though his sister, Kim Yo Jong, holds a political title, there has never been a female leader of North Korea, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

There’s also the critical question of what could happen to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The US has previously made offers to help rebuild North Korea’s weak economy if its government hands over its nuclear weapons, but we’ll have to wait to find out if North Korea will take the US up on its offer.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military formally linked to Malaysia Airlines crash

International investigators have said Russia’s military was involved in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

Flight MH17 crashed in a field in war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile on a flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the aircraft were killed.


The MH17 Joint Investigation Team issued an interim report Thursday. At a press conference, the team said the missile came from the Russian military’s 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, based in Kursk, near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The team cited distinctive identifying marks on recovered missile fragments that it says ties it directly to the 53rd brigade, which is based close to the Ukrainian border.

“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, a senior investigator with the Dutch National Police, told the conference.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
The Joint Investigation Team examined the markings on the on the recovered missile fragments.
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

The statement is the closest yet investigators have come to blaming Russia for the attack. The investigators also brought to the conference part of the Buk missile they say caused the crash:

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Of the passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 plane, 196 were Dutch and about 40 were Malaysian, with others from Australia, Indonesia, and the UK.

Investigators have not named any suspects and have called on people involved in the attack to come forward for questioning.

The Dutch government announced in 2017, that anyone believed to have brought down the jet would be tried in the Netherlands.

Open-source investigators at Bellingcat came to the same conclusion as the Joint Investigative Team three years ago, but the JIT had different legal requirements and thresholds for evidence and therefore needed more time.

Russia has continually denied involvement in the downing of the jet.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief, deadly history of chemical weapons

On April 22, 1915, a stiff wind outside of Ypres helped loose the first systematic poison-gas attack in history.

On a sunny afternoon in April 1915, outside the Belgian city of Ypres, the wind began blowing in the direction the German troops wanted – toward the French lines. German soldiers set up over 5,000 barrels of chlorine gas along their position, and let loose a rolling cloud of thick, yellow death. More than 6,000 French troops died in what was the first systematic use of poison gas on the battlefield. Its effectiveness caught even the Germans off guard. Willi Siebert, a German soldier, noted in his diary, “When we got to the French lines, the trenches were empty, but in a half mile the bodies of French soldiers were everywhere. It was unbelievable.” Just over 99 years later, on June 17, 2014, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed chlorine gas was used by the Syrian government in an attack on its own people.


Origins and evolution

In 1918, a German chemist named Fritz Haber won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for a method of extracting ammonia from the nitrogen in the atmosphere. The process made ammonia abundant and easily available. Haber’s discovery revolutionized agriculture, with some calling it the most significant technological discovery of the 20th century – supporting half of the world’s food base.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
German chemistu00a0Fritz Haber.

Haber was also a staunch German patriot who quickly joined the war effort at the outbreak of World War I. He was insistent on using weaponized gases, despite objections from some army commanders about their brutality, and treaties prohibiting their use. He personally oversaw the first use of chlorine gas at the front lines at Ypres. The next morning, he set out for the eastern front to deploy gas against the Russian army.

Chemical weapons quickly became a mainstay of warfare, public condemnation notwithstanding. They were employed by the militaries of Italy, Russia, Spain, and Japan, among others.

Timeline: chemical weapons use

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

During the Cold War, the United States and the U.S.S.R. made major advances in chemical-weapons technology. Their breakthroughs were accompanied by innovations in nuclear-weapons technology. It was during this period that the third generation of chemical weapons was invented: nerve agents.

Within a century of their devastating debut at Ypres, chemical weapons have increased in lethality a thousandfold.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

Use in Syria’s Civil War

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

Sources

  • Organization For The Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons (background, locations, types of weapons, stockpiles, number of weapons destroyed)
  • United Nations Human Rights Council (Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic)
  • National Institutes Of Health (effects, history, and lethality)
  • Smithsonian Institute (history)
  • Violations Documentation Center in Syria (fatalities)
  • Human Rights Watch (types of weapons, attack locations)
  • U.S. Defense Department (types of weapons)

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

14 photos that show how deployed troops watch the Super Bowl

The military is filled with sports fans, and few days are as important to sports followers as the Super Bowl. So the U.S. military goes to great lengths to ensure that troops around the world are granted the opportunity to watch the big game (as long as they aren’t currently wrapped up in a mission…probably).


Here are 14 photos that show how troops around the world watch the ultimate football game each year:

1. Sports fans around the world watch the game on the Armed Forces Network, a U.S. military satellite channel. Some of these watching parties even allow minor uniform alterations, such as the wear of sports jerseys.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Capt. Joe Beale, a systems automation officer assigned to the 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, cheers as the Seattle Seahawks score a touchdown during Super Bowl XLVIII, Feb. 2, 2014, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Cpl. Alex Flynn)

2. The watch parties are held wherever a TV and suitable seating can be set up, including chow halls…

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Sailors watch Super Bowl 50 (fun fact: this was the year the Super Bowl decided to take a break from using roman numerals because the stand-alone “L” raised some confusion) between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos in USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) mess decks. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

3. …theaters or briefing rooms…

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Deployed troops watch the “big game” during a Super Bowl 50 viewing party at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2016. The Airmen, soldiers, and civilians enjoyed the game and got to meet Miami Dolphins cheerleaders and former players during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

4. …and even ranges.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Marines with 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment take a break from their Integrated Training Exercise to watch the Super Bowl at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Feb. 3, 2012.

5. The luckiest viewers get to watch in sports bars on base.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Community members react to the Super Bowl 50 game with Carolina Panthers versus Denver Broncos Feb. 8 at the CZCC. (U.S. Army photo by Lance Davis)

6. The game-watching parties are usually supplemented with other activities.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Marines with 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment take a break from their Integrated Training Exercise to watch the Super Bowl at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Feb. 3, 2012.

7. For obvious reasons, football games are a common choice.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Marines with 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment take a break from their Integrated Training Exercise to watch the Super Bowl at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Feb. 3, 2012.

8. But other games are commonly set up.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Pfc. Oscar Ramero plays pool at a Single Marine Program Recreation Center at Camp Pendleton, Feb. 7, 2016. The center hosted a Super Bowl party which included free food and games for noncommissioned officer ranks and below. Ramero, from New York, is a student with Assault Amphibian School Battalion, School of Infantry – West. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel)

9. Some bases will even get special visits from USO tours, like this NFL All-Star Cheerleaders line-up.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
NFL All-Star Cheerleaders perform for the Super Bowl 50 party Feb. 8 at the CZZC. (U.S. Army photo by Lance Davis)

10. Concerts are fairly common as well.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
The Smokin’ Scarecrows play a cover of a song Feb. 7, 2016, in the Ramstein Enlisted Club, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The band was part of the pre-game entertainment before the 2016 Super Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

11. Prize giveaways are big at watch parties, especially overseas.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Vonetta Weatherspoon, community member from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, received the grand prize of two round-trip tickets to the U.S. from United Airlines at the Super Bowl 50 party Feb. 8 in the CZCC. (U.S. Army photo by Lance Davis)

12. Electronics, plane tickets, and other prizes are given out.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Prizes for the patrons of the Super Bowl 50 Madness party rest on a table Feb. 7, 2016, in the Ramstein Enlisted Club, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Prizes included National Football League lawn chairs and money. Club members could also receive furniture, additional cash, LED televisions, and gaming consoles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

13. Of course, no Super Bowl party is complete without snacks.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson chaplains hosted a Super Bowl Sunday Party with a large variety of food and drinks at the Wired Cafe, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Feb. 1, 2015. The Super Bowl Sunday Party there is an annual tradition. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Christopher R. Morales)

14. But it is the military, so not everyone gets a party or even a chance to watch the game. Some guys have to pull duty, like these paratroopers getting ready for an airborne operation on Super Bowl Sunday.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
While the rest of the country was watching Super Bowl 50, hundreds of Airborne Artillerymen assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery rushed down to Green Ramp to conduct sustained airborne training in preparation for a zero-dark-thirty airborne operation the following morning of Feb. 8, 2016., on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Capt. Joe Bush, 82nd Airborne Division Artillery/ Released.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US should worry more about Xi Jinping than Putin

Under President Donald Trump, the US is starting to prepare for a great-power war and has set its sights on two countries run by powerful men — Russia and China.


Both Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China are set to stay in power for years to come. Putin is widely expected to win Russia’s upcoming election in March and China recently announced plans to end presidential term limits, which could allow Xi to keep his position for decades.

Related: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Evan Osnos, a New Yorker staff writer who lived in China from 2005 to 2013, charted the differences between the two leaders in an article on Xi and China’s term limit decision. He noted that the similarities between Putin and Xi are “limited.”

“In matters of diplomacy and war, Putin wields mostly the weapons of the weak: hackers in American politics, militias in Ukraine, obstructionism in the United Nations,” Osnos wrote.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Osnos argued that Putin’s Russia uses “the arsenal of a declining power,” while Xi’s China is “ascendant.”

“On the current trajectory, Xi’s economy and military will pose a far greater challenge to American leadership than Putin’s,” according to Osnos.

Xi, he said, “is throwing out the written rules, and to the degree that he applies that approach to the international system — including rules on trade, arms, and access to international waters — America faces its most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War.”

The US has largely avoided weighing in on China’s planned term limit change.

Also read: China’s president is kind of a big deal

“That’s a decision for China to make about what’s best for their country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Feb. 26, 2018.

However, Osnos is not alone in thinking the US should be worried about China under Xi.

“For the United States, the idea of an absolute dictator running the most powerful peer competitor nation-state-and soon to be the most powerful economy — with a single-minded obsession to ‘Make China Great Again’ who is going to be around for another 10 to 15 years must give us pause,” former State Department official and China expert John Tkacik told the Washington Free Beacon.

“Fasten your seatbelts.”

Articles

Army revs up M4 carbine lethality upgrade

The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.


The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.

To date, the Army has completed 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 48,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.”

Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.

Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbine on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.

The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.

Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.

“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
U.S. Staff Sgt. Chad Hart with Green 0 Security Force Advisory Team, 10th Mountain Division, fires his M4 carbine down range on Khair Kot Garrison, Paktika province, Afghanistan, June 2, 2013. Staff Sgt. Hart assumed the standing firing position for qualification. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Chenee’ Brooks/ Released)

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camouflage, removable iron sights and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.

“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will ‘provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel’ for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in

Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US called out Germany on its failing military

Over the past several months, the entirety of Germany’s submarine fleet has gone out of action, the Bundeswehr, its armed forces, has outsourced helicopter training to a private company because its own helicopters are in need of repair, and more than half of the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2 tanks, its most common model, were out of order, with just 95 of 244 in service.


Those are only the latest reports of German military deficiencies.

In spring 2017, the Bundeswehr contingent deployed to a peacekeeping mission in Mali was left hamstrung when heat, dust, and rough terrain knocked half its vehicles out of commission. In early 2016, it was reported that German reconnaissance jets taking part in the fight against ISIS couldn’t fly at night because their cockpit lighting was too bright for pilots.

In early 2015, as Berlin was preparing to send fighter jets to Syria, a military report emerged saying that only 66 of the air force’s 93 commissioned fighters were operational — and only 29 were combat-ready. In 2014, German troops tried to disguise a shortage of weapons by replacing machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise.

Germany has high standards for its military equipment, experts say, and it’s believed that the country could mobilize much of its equipment in a short period if needed. Berlin also drew down its forces in 2011 in order to focus on asymmetrical warfare. It reversed course years later in light of Russian action in Ukraine and renewed concerns about conventional warfare, but much of that equipment has to be reacquired.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, was greeted by Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, E-3A Component commander, and his wife, Keri, during a short visit at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen on April 30, 2014. The chancellor was transiting through the air base while traveling to Aachen. (Photo by Andrea Hohenforst)

Those shortages of gear may hinder recruiting efforts, as the German military transitions from a conscripted force to an all-volunteer one. (The Bundeswehr’s recruitment drive has been criticized for targeting 16- and 17-year-olds.)

But the German military’s shortcomings have added to the country’s internal political debates, and Germany’s contribution to Europe’s collective defense is also facing scrutiny.

Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for Germany’s armed forces, has said while more limited operations may still be possible, the country’s military is not prepared for a larger conflict.

“The hard currency, which should be used to measure the success of the minister, is the Bundeswehr’s readiness for action,” Bartels told The Washington Post of Germany’s defense capacity, referring to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “And this readiness has not improved over the last four years but has only gotten worse.”

Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party, of which Bartels is a member, was part of a governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, of which von der Leyen is also a member, but the SDP moved into the official parliamentary opposition after a disappointing showing in the September elections.

Also Read: 10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

The SDP and CDU agree that Germany’s military — with 178,000 personnel and much-outdated equipment — needs improvement, but the SDP has balked at the CDU’s push to increase the defense budget to 2% of GDP by 2024. Industry estimates put 2017 defense spending at about 1.13% of GDP.

Such an increase would require Germany to grow military spending from 37 billion euros in 2017 to more than 70 billion euros by 2024, according to Deutsche Welle.

The two parties reached a preliminary agreement in early January that would boost defense expenditures to 42.4 billion euros in 2021, but the projected expansion of Germany’s economy would mean that sum would still only be a little over 1% of GDP. (The agreement did not specifically mention NATO members’ agreed-upon defense-spending target of 2% of GDP.)

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, an SDP member, has called expanding defense spending t0 2% of GDP a “pretty crazy idea,” and the SDP is not the only party resisting such an increase. The legacy of World War II and the Cold War have made some in Germany wary of military expansion, and others have argued the German military doesn’t have enough uses for such a rapid influx of defense funds.

Spending 2% of GDP on defense would bring Germany to the level agreed upon by NATO member countries, but the country’s political parties disagree on whether that agreement is actually binding.

President Donald Trump publicly scolded NATO members for “not paying what they should be paying” in 2017 and admonished Germany for owing the U.S. “vast sums of money” in March that year. Berlin dismissed that assertion, but the U.S. and other officials have continued to push Germany over its defense spending.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
François Hollande (left), President of France, and Angela Dorothea Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, have a talk during the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit 2014, Newport, Wales, The United Kingdom.
(NATO photo by Edouard Bocquet)

Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and Germany’s former envoy to Washington, echoed accusations that Germany wasn’t contributing its fair share, saying it was “undignified” for Germany’s only contribution to the fight against ISIS to be reconnaissance flights.

“The biggest European Union state is all for victory over Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; we take photos, but we leave the dirty business of shooting to others,” he told Reuters in late January.

“We should not develop the reputation of being one of the world’s best freeloaders,” he added.

The debate has not been limited to German voices.

During a visit to Germany at the end of January, U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, said he would take the German government at its word that it would increase defense spending to the 2% target, but he cautioned against falling short.

“It’s important for all of our NATO allies to live up to their commitments,” Esper said. “If not, it weakens the alliance, clearly, and Germany is such a critical member of NATO.”

Articles

This is why the Navy SEAL swim challenge is not for just anyone

Navy SEAL candidates go through some of the hardest military training in the world before earning their beloved Trident.


Before graduating BUD/s, they must successfully pass “drown-proofing” which is a series of swim challenges that must be completed without the use of their hands or feet — which are tied together.

This swim challenge is comprised of five difficult tests that not only pushes the mind but the body to its limits.

Can this Buzzfeed host use both his mental and physical strength to overcome and complete this challenge? Let’s find out.

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Note: This challenge was done in an eight-foot deep pool versus the nine-foot one the Navy uses during the training.

Phase 1: Bobbing up and down 20 times for five minutes.

Success! (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 2: Float on your back for five minutes

The key here is not to panic. (Images via Giphy)Result: Fail

Phase 3: The Dolphin swim

Where endurance kicks in. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 4: Front and back somersault

One of the test’s hardest challenges. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 5: Retrieve a GoPro at the bottom of the pool

He made that look easy. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

4 out of 5 isn’t bad.

Also Read: 7 unrealistic Navy SEAL characters in the movies

Check out the Buzz Feed Blue’s below to watch this host attempt the whole Navy SEAL water challenge for yourself.

(YouTube, BuzzFeedBlue)Do you think this guy passed the Navy SEAL swim test? Comment below.
MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.


The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.

He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”

Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills.

Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.

Also read: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.

“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.

“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.

The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.

Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.

Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.

Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”

That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.

(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.

You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.

I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.

Also read: 8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.

I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic.  Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.

He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.

“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”

It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.

The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.

Articles

These 6 tweaks could make America’s military better without breaking the bank

Pentagon budgets are shrinking (or growing at a smaller rate than they had during the previous few decades). And while there’s not a lot of money to procure new weapons systems, the threats to the nation aren’t going away. The U.S. military still has a job to do. There are no bucks, but the American public still expects Buck Rogers.


Here are six improvements — “tweaks,” if you will — to existing platforms that would improve military readiness without breaking the increasingly small bank:

1. An internal gun for the F-35B/C variants of the Lightning II

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes)

The Air Force’s F-35A has a gun — the GAU-22, a 25mm Gatling Gun, with 182 rounds. The GAU-22 is based off the AV-8B’s GAU-12, and it gives the F-35A an offensive edge. But the F-35B and F-35C don’t have an internal gun (only a gun pod with 220 rounds).

The same situation existed with the F-4 Phantom – probably America’s first real joint strike fighter, which saw action during the Vietnam War with the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. As Navy ace (and convicted congressional felon) Randy Cunningham noted in his memoir, Fox Two, the lack of a gun cost him kills.

2. The Penguin anti-ship missile for the MH-60R Seahawk

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
MH-60R fires a Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This chopper is an advanced version of the SH-60B. Equipped with a choice of lightweight torpedo (either Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54), and Hellfire missiles, it serves as additional eyes and ears for surface combatants. But the Hellfire has only a 20-pound warhead and a range of about five nautical miles.

The SH-60B, though, had the Penguin anti-ship missile. This weapon had a 265-pound warhead and a range of 15 nautical miles. In other words, it can handle bigger targets – and would be very useful additions to the MH-60R’s arsenal.

3. More bomb capacity for the B-1B Lancer

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

While the B-1B already has the largest bombload of any American combat plane, it could have even more. Presently, it has a bomb bay that can hold 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The venerable B-52 can only carry 51 such bombs. In other words, the B-1 can deliver about 60 percent more hurt to the bad guys.

But it could be even more. The B-1B, when designed, had the capability to carry up to 14 cruise missiles or 44 more Mk 82s on external pylons. Restoring those external pylons would give the B-1 50 percent more firepower.

4. Harpoon launchers for the Flight IIA and III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
Flt I Burke class destroyer shoots a Harpoon missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While the Flight IIA and Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are very capable vessels in anti-air warfare and anti-sub warfare. But the earlier Flight I and Flight II versions of this destroyer have something the later ships don’t: A pair of Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Boeing’s latest version of the Harpoon has a range of 130 nautical miles and a 300-pound warhead. The Mk 141 launchers don’t take up a lot of space, and it never hurts to have more anti-ship firepower as China and Russia are adding modern ships to their naval arsenals.

5. Laser-guided bombs for the B-2 Spirit

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
B-2 dropping a JDAM GPS-guided bomb. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

What more could you want on America’s most advanced bomber in service? The B-2 Spirit has stealth technology and the ability to deliver precision-guided weapons including the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, as well as nuclear weapons – excuse me, “special stores.” It’s also expensive – a flyaway cost of just over $700 million per plane caused the production run to stop at 21 airframes.

That said, they have a couple of gaps in their capabilities. All of the B-2’s weapons are either dumb bombs or GPS-guided. So, perhaps the best upgrade they could get would be to give the B-2 the ability to drop laser-guided bombs like the GBU-24 and to use Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the Standoff Land-Attack Missile, giving them more options to target ships like the Chinese Type 52C destroyer.

6. Bushmaster cannon for the M1126/M1127 Stryker

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(Photo: U.S. Army)

The Stryker’s proven itself in combat operations during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The M1126 and M1127 have a remote weapons station that can use an M2 heavy machine gun or a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher.

But now, it could be asked to help fight Russian aggression against NATO allies. Here it has a problem. The Stryker is outgunned by the BMP-3 or BTR-90, Russia’s most modern infantry fighting vehicles. The former has a 100mm gun and a 30mm coaxial cannon. The latter has a 30mm cannon and an AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank missile.

So, to give the Stryker a better chance in a fight against the Russians, the best option would be to give it the same chain gun that the M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles carry: the 25mm Bushmaster cannon.

These six weapons systems serve with our troops – and have done so with excellence. But some small improvements to each of them would give our troops even better odds on battlefields around the world.

Articles

This animated map shows Gettysburg in a whole new way

The Civil War Trust, known for its great maps and historical accounts of the war, has branched into animated maps that show move-by-move accounts of important battles like Antietam, Vicksburg and Shiloh.


The trust’s still maps are known for their accuracy and detail, and these new animated maps continue that tradition. The big difference is the motion; it’s like watching the battle play out on a sand table during a ROC drill.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(GIF: YouTube/Civil War Trust)

A narrator provides context for the action, telling viewers everything from how the crippling heat affected the repeated clashes at Little Round Top to why Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-advised deployment of artillery on the Union’s front.

Meanwhile, short video clips try to put the viewer on the ground with soldiers during the most fierce and important events, showing things like when Maj. Gen. John Reynolds was shot in the neck and killed.

This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty
(GIF: YouTube/Civil War Trust)

The full videos for each battle are a little long, about 15-20 minutes each. But they let you get a better understanding of each battle that you can knock out in a lunch break. Check out Gettysburg below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUKreep2P1M
MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch as an E-2C Hawkeye nearly crashes off a carrier deck

It’s the kind of video that puts a lump in your throat.


But it’s also a crystal clear demonstration of the training that teaches Naval aviators to keep their cool.

In this incredible clip from the USS Eisenhower, a Navy E-2C Hawkeye surveillance plane coasts into what seems like a textbook landing during a calm day at sea off the coast of Virginia.

As the Hawkeye traps the number four wire, it seems as if the plane made a good arrest. But while the twin turboprop airplane strains to a stop, the cable suddenly snaps, sending sailors on the flight deck scrambling and the plane plunging off the end of the flight deck. It takes a heart-stopping 6 seconds for the plane to pull out of the dive and into view above the line of the flight deck.

According to the Virginian Pilot newspaper which obtained the investigation report into the March 18 incident, the arresting gear was misprogrammed for the Hawkeye’s landing, causing the cable to snap. While the aircrew landed the plane safely ashore, eight sailors were injured on the flight deck.